The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports that congenital heart defects affect nearly 40,000 births in the United States. Of these 40,000 births, 25 percent are considered a ‘Critical Congenital Heart Defect’ meaning that the child will need surgical correction within the first year of life.
A heart defect affects the passage of blood through the heart, not within the muscle as with a heart attack. The heart keeps our blood pumping throughout our body. It has 4 chambers, vessels and valves that control the constant flow of blood through the heart to remove waste and circulate oxygenation and nourishment to cells. Each chamber, valve and vessel has a separate and important job in every heartbeat or ‘pump’. When a child is born with an alteration to the anatomy of the heart, or ‘congenital heart defect,’ it affects the blood flow and causes a wide range of issues.
Some of the most common defects involve a lack of development of the dividing septal wall between chambers; this causes an abnormal flow of blood with a broad range of severity and symptoms. According to the CDC, Ventricular Septal Defect is the most common defect involving a hole connecting the two lower chambers of the heart. In many cases a diagnosis may not be made until a child is older and active in sports. Parents may notice the child tires easily or gets light headed. Treatments range from minimal with a small defect to surgical with a large defect.
Other congenital heart defects can involve an abnormal development of valves or vessels or any combination of anomalies. With the raised awareness, prenatal care and newborn screenings, many babies born with a congenital heart defect are thriving due to early detection and intervention.
The Children with Medical Handicaps program (CMH) can help eligible families with what can be a complicated and expensive experience by helping to cover surgeries, medications and Cardiologist visits. Contact me Monday-Wednesday at the Meigs County Health Department at 740-992-6626 for more information.